David Asper says he is not the Ottawa Renegades' white knight. He may, however, be the troubled Canadian Football League club's safety net.
Asper, the vice-president of CanWest Global Communications Corp., which owns the Citizen, and the chairman of National Post, admitted yesterday he explored purchasing the Renegades this week. Asper met with CFL commissioner Tom Wright and league governors, but said he is no longer pursuing the team.
"I analysed the situation and did a lot of thinking about it. I believe Ottawa is a great CFL market and what is happening there concerns me," he said from Toronto last night. "In light of the fact that there didn't appear to be anybody stepping up, I considered if there was some role I could play. Since then, certain circumstances arose, and now I am not involved.
"As you know, I am a huge CFL supporter and a believer that Ottawa should, and must, have a team," he continued. "I wish all the people involved the best of success."
The Renegades are projected to lose between $4 million and $6 million this season and owners Bernie Glieberman and Bill Smith have indicated they will not foot the entire bill. The league has set a soft deadline of April 6 to either sell the franchise or proceed with a dispersal draft of Renegades players.
This marks the second time in as many years that Asper has eyed the Renegades. He met with the team's former ownership group and Wright last February, expressing his concern with the directionless state of the franchise.
Yesterday, Asper refused to close the door on an emergency bail-out should the team not be sold in the next week.
In Canadian Football League barstool conversations, it is often noted that the Winnipeg Blue Bombers' financial health would be an ongoing worry if not for the presence of the Asper family.
David Asper's basement is decorated in blue and gold and he tried to buy his hometown team in 1999 when two levels of Manitoba government stepped in with emergency assistance.
Asked if he would serve as the Renegades' safety net, Asper replied: "I've asked (the league) how I can help and I continue to standby. That is what happened last year, and that is what happened this year. I will never say 'never,' but I think it is highly, highly, highly, highly unlikely."
Meanwhile, another group taking an interest in the Renegades was brought to the table by Toronto Argonauts co-owner Howard Sokolowski, who did not return a call from the Citizen yesterday.
The Ontario-based group is believed to have a connection to Sokolowski's building company, Tribute Communities, and could also have ties in Ottawa-Gatineau.
While some CFL teams believe the Renegades could suspend operations in 2006 and be revived shortly thereafter, the Argonauts are not one of them. Sokolowski and partner David Cynamon are said to be working feverishly to help put a new owner in place.
you'd think a guy who owns as much media outlets as asper would be less critical of a leak to the media?...and altho he said he might buy the Gades last minute, it seems to me hes holding out for the day the Bluebombers go on sale!
heres what the Ti-cat Owner had to say about this:
BOB YOUNG ( TI-CATS OWNERS COMMENTS ):
QUOTE:Unfortunately this is very bad news.
If we (as a league) cannot protect the privacy of people and organizations who are simply inquiring about the possibility of buying the Renegades, think what sort of impression that leaves with these prospective partners of ours.
This is the kind of league "news leak" that has damaged the league materially time and again. It is sad to see it continue and now possibly scare off prospective buyers. Sigh.